Colombo, October 14: Leaders of the opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA), including the leader of the official parliamentary Opposition, R.Sampanthan, boycotted Sri Lankan President Mithripala Sirisena’s visit to the Tamil-speaking Northern town of Jaffna on Saturday.
They were protesting against the continued detention of 168 Tamil “political prisoners” who had been taken into custody during the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
While the Tamil parties and the media say that the detainees are “political prisoners”, Sri Lankan governments up to this day, have been insisting that they are militants who had been arrested for “grave crimes.”
The Junior Defense Minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, said earlier this week that no suspected LTTE operative would be released without going through the legal process.
President Sirisena, who was in Jaffna on Saturday to inaugurate the National Tamil Language Day, was greeted with black flags by Tamil political parties led by a Northern Provincial Councilor, M.K.Shivajilingam.
Referring to the demonstration, President Sirisena said that those waving back flags should wave flags of peace to fulfill the aspirations of future generations.
The Jaffna Magistrate had ordered that no demonstrations should be held in the vicinity of the Jaffna Hindu College, the venue of the Presidential function..
On Friday, the Tamil areas in North and East Sri Lanka observed a total shutdown pressing for the release of the prisoners, a demand which has been there since the end of the war in May 2009.
Some of the leaders of the Tamil Peoples Council (TPC) like Suresh Premachandran had vowed that no Central government leader would be allowed to step into the Northern Province till the issue is resolved.
Earlier, the Leader of the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) and Minister for National Languages, Mano Ganeshan, had met President Sirisena in Colombo and pleaded with him to release the prisoners as the issue has become an emotional one among the Tamil people.
The President replied that he would consult the Attorney General, the government’s top most law officer.
Meanwhile, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V.Anandasangaree suggested that the prisoners be given amnesty under the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 which envisages a General Amnesty.
But successive Sri Lankan governments have been saying that amnesty could not be granted to militants against whom there are specific cases.
However, former militant leaders including a former commander of the LTTE in the Eastern Province “Col” Karuna, was found to be clean enough to be a Minister in the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and militant leader Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan to be Chief Minister of the Eastern Province. The top-most militant gun runner, Kumaran Pathmanathan, was not only not tried or jailed but was allowed to run an NGO.
Many Tamils feel that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was kinder to the Tamil Tiger militants after the war. He rehabilitated and released 12,000 cadres and gave Karuna and Chandrakanthan ministerial posts.